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Report Says Mass. Consumers Pay Millions for Lost Natural Gas


A recently released report shows that due to an aging infrastructure in Massachusetts, tens of millions of dollars worth of natural gas escapes into the atmosphere before consumers can use it to heat their homes. More from WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard…

Last month the Conservation Law Foundation released a report that said leaky pipes in Massachusetts contribute to a loss of $38.8 million dollars worth of natural gas each year. The losses they say are a public safety hazard, contribute to global warming, and force the customers to pick up the bill.

Shanna Cleveland is the lead author of the report, Into Thin Air.

Cleveland said that by looking at the numbers utilities report to the state and federal government, they can determine how much gas gets lost on its way to consumers. Cleveland said that some of the cast-iron pipes used to carry natural gas date back to the 19th century.

Clean Water Action is another advocacy group that is looking to gain grassroots support for action on the issue.

State Representative Lori Ehrlich is sponsor of a bill intended to address gas leaks that is currently awaiting approval by the State Senate. The legislation would require all grades of gas leaks to be reported to the Department of Public Utilities. Currently, Grade 1 which are considered emergency leaks are required under state law to be reported and repaired immediately. Grade 2 leaks must be repaired within 1 year. The bill would address the Grade 3 leaks, which are not considered by the state to be a significant safety threat, that are not required to be repaired. The bill and would also require the DPU to investigate if winter patrols should be conducted on cast-iron pipelines. Rep. Lori Ehrlich explains…

The bill would require necessary repairs to be made by the utilities.

Barbara Kates-Garnick, Energy Undersecretary for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs says that the work done by CLF is important, and currently the state is working with utilities to determine the actual level of gas leaks on a case-by-case basis.

The CLF says that in 2010 Massachusetts already strict energy efficiency programs help saved over 1 million cubic feet of gas. However, they also say that the gas lost through distribution totals more than what’s saved.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.